by Tony Vidler
According to the Guiness Book Of World Records the greatest salesman in the world was Joe Girard.
Joe sold cars…an incredible 13,001 cars sold in his career. One at a time…working “retail” with high priced items. And selling the same things, at the same price, as a heck of a lot of other people in the same town. That’s a tough job any day of the week, for anybody. Starting in 1963, without all the technology and communication and customer engagement tools that we have at our disposal today he began his journey into immortality – and left prospecting and engagement marketing lessons for anyone to follow.
Like everyone he started with no customers, and like many he began his career trying to prospect by cold calling strangers straight out of the phone book.
Just like everyone else who has started out that way he quickly concluded that must be better ways to get business. Because cold calling sucks. And the success ratio’s are just awful. And it sucks.
Joe came up with what he referred to as the “Law of 250” and it was his epiphany…it was his game changer. He figured out that on average everyone knew about 250 people…so every person he could turn into an advocate could put him in front of 250 others….
So Joe began keeping really good files on everyone, and kept track of the changes in peoples’ lives. Their kids names, their involvement in the local community, where they worked…birthdays…He learned as much as he could about the people he wanted to have as customers.
Joe also mailed a card every single month to every single person on his list – which was every single person he had ever had a conversation with about buying a car. He reminded people that he was there, waiting patiently until they were ready to buy another car. More importantly he reminded people that he remembered them – and they in turn remembered him whenever “car buying” came up in conversations. Remember this was back in the days of index filing cards….no databases and mail merge options.
While Joe Girard is heralded as the greatest salesman ever, I suspect what gets forgotten is that he was actually a great marketer. He was onto data management before it was even a thing. He was onto engagement marketing before marketers even thought of it. He was definitely onto relationship management. In effect he was onto the line of thinking that says “prospecting is not a one time action”….it is about cultivating opportunity, exercising patience, and creating top-of-mind-awareness.
I don’t know if Joe ever actually thought it through like that of course, but he figured out that if he got his marketing right then the sales would follow. In a business where people are happy and made a good livelihood selling 6 units a month Joe was averaging 6 units a day. That is phenomenal.
Whether it is a new car or whether it is starting a financial plan the reality is nearly all consumers will want to do some looking, thinking and learning before they commit to buying something which is a big change for them.
The greatest lesson Joe Girard taught was build a system founded upon patient engagement with potential customers, and then stay in touch and be nice, and they will come to you when the time is right for them. Build a good enough system and you will have more prospects than your competitors can dream of.